I don’t want a smart device in my house for the same reason I don’t want Google executives or Jeff Bezos in my house: There’s no discernible benefit, and it would totally kill the vibe. Oh, and I guess the mass surveillance — not knowing if the machine will feed data about me directly to the U.S. government, which is trending toward fascism at the moment, if you hadn’t noticed?
Anyway, big tech is understandably bent on presenting their creepy products as cute, actually. Hence the headlines like this one: “‘Alexa, Change the Subject’: Amazon Adds Feature to Avoid Christmas Arguments.” Gosh, I love it when a trillion-dollar company jokes about how we’re all miserable nowadays and most often take it out on loved ones. But seriously, the trope of the family holiday fight is so tired that only a marketing team could still believe in it. Most people get along with their relatives, know how to keep things diplomatic or have settled into long-term estrangement. For the clan that persists in getting together to scream at each other, well, I’m not sure how Alexa chirping “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?” in the heat of the moment would help. Neither do I see an upside to informing Amazon of disagreements at the dinner table.
In fact, if we’re going to opt out of face-to-face feuds, we may as well have the A.I. continue the debate without us. Get two different smart devices and train them on totally opposite media diets. Let them absorb the talking points and conspiracies, the pundit cruft and propaganda. Feed them a list of cutting-edge insults. Program both to have complex bias against their rival brands. Then, whenever your father-in-law finishes his third glass of red wine and growls that “All Lives Matter,” you can say, “Alexa, I’m tagging you in while I go get stoned in the garage.” The old man can appoint the Google Home as his fighter and stumble off to the den to watch TV. Everyone else resumes their meal, enjoying the spirited and nasty debate of the robots.
I swear, it’s like I have to do all the thinking around here. And the sad part is, none of these corporations are incentivized to build a gadget that writes blog posts mocking their dumb, shitty promotional gimmicks for privacy-invading hardware. So I’m stuck doing it the old-fashioned way. See you here next year, when Alexa is equipped to automatically call the cops on carolers.